Experience the Driver’s Seat: Shelby F-150

All work and no play? The Shelby F-150 is the 700-horsepower cure.

With big and bold encoded in the Lone Star State’s DNA and a pickup truck practically a birthright, the 2016 Shelby F-150 may just be the ultimate Texas pickup. A 700-horsepower heart and a distinguished pedigree ensure the blue beast that graces this page isn’t just another hopped-up, Texas-tough pickup.

But let’s get one matter out of the way. Although his name is easy to spot on and in this imposing truck, Carroll Shelby didn’t have a direct hand in its creation. The Texas-born racer, car builder and promoter who helped lead Ford’s GT40s to their 1-2-3 victory rout in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans and went on to produce boutique performance machines that won on race tracks and now bring six figures, made his last pass in 2012.

The run of 500 specially modified, well-appointed 2016 Ford F-150 Lariats is the brainchild of Shelby American. The serially numbered and documented pickups are assembled by Tuscany Motor Co. in Elkhart, Indiana. Each Shelby F-150 bears an iconic Carroll Shelby Motors and Cobra badge that seals the link between Texas’ most popular truck line and arguably its best-known automotive luminary.

To sample the Shelby F-150, we flew to Las Vegas, headquarters of Shelby American, ground zero for contemporary versions of the Shelby Mustangs tribute AC Cobra roadsters and sundry Mustang upgrades. Whether or not you’re a fan of Fords or Shelby, you should check out Shelby American’s museum and gift store. It’s close to McCarran International Airport, and free tours are available most days.

The Shelby F-150 provides the driver a commanding “I’m king of the world” vantage, thanks to a BDS 3.5-inch lift and custom Fox shocks similar to those used in Ford’s 2009 breakout off-road hit, the F-150 Raptor. With the Raptor on hiatus for the last couple of years, and Ford not ready to ship the 2017 Raptor, the Shelby F-150 is an expedient way to get your hands on an aluminum-bodied off-road F-150. Ditto the “old school” high-output V8, as the upcoming Raptor dumps the previous 6.2-liter V8 for an overachieving EcoBoost V6.

A Borla dual exhaust system ensures that the 5.0-liter V8 under the F-150’s ram-air hood sounds suitably steroidal. If you desire more gusto than the Shelby F-150’s standard 395 horses, there’s the 700-horse supercharged version with larger throttle body and intercooler.

Starting at $85,995, this investment-grade pickup isn’t for everybody, but the spicy Shelby F-150 earns its stripes as an impressive, comfortable and entertaining double-duty machine for work and play.

You can cruise like it’s a hybrid (with the aerodynamics of a boxcar), and the only hint to its dark side is the pleasant whine of the supercharger. Mash the pedal, though, and this “Cobra” doesn’t hesitate to strike.

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